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Long before beginning to speak, children converse with their mothers in 'proto-conversations', which occur from the first months of life at the time of feeding, changing the diaper, bathing ... These first conversations already have the basic components found in adult conversations, eye contact and joint attention, but something is missing. What does a child need to have an effective conversation and how can you help develop this skill? I tell you about it in the following lines.
During the first year of life, children acquire early social interaction skills. These continue to develop throughout childhood, making it possible for them to have proper conversations later on. What skills are we talking about?
- Contact and visual monitoring
At 2 months, they hold and follow the changes in the direction of the adult's gaze with their gaze.
- Joint Attention
Around 6 months, babies can share their attention with another person towards an object or event. The mother shows him a toy and the child alternates his attention between the toy and his mother. They are sharing something together!
- Initiation and maintenance of social interaction by itself
The child and the adult work to build rhythms of interaction. There are pauses, waiting times, expectation and interest in the other's response. This is essential to sustain the interaction.
- Establishing turns to speak
In a conversation, one listens and the other speaks, thus giving an alternation of the word. It is after 4 years when the child manages to respect the turns in verbal exchanges.
- Maintenance of the theme
Around the age of 5, children can hold the same topic in conversation, although they still depend on the adult to continue the thread of discourse.
- Understanding of relationships
It consists of knowing how to respond appropriately to a variety of people in different contexts. It has to do with how the speaker adjusts to the context and status of the interlocutor. Talking to a teacher is not the same as talking to a family member or friend. Between 4 and 5 years old, children can adapt to the social environment and modify their way of expressing themselves according to whether it is a relative or not.
- Repair strategies
It has to do with the ability to overcome situations of misunderstanding between the child and the adult. After 3 years, children can ask for clarification: 'What?' or 'I don't understand'. By age 4, they can repair misunderstandings effectively.
- Provide relevant information
It has to do with giving the information that the interlocutor needs to be able to understand the subject in question, assess whether the information is sufficient or insufficient, if there is previous information that the interlocutor does not know or does not know and provide the necessary data so that the conversation is effective. This skill is acquired around the age of 6 and increases rapidly after age 7.
And now, it is the turn to play, I mean, to teach the child in a playful way to develop a conversation. Here are some ideas!
- Basic turn games
From a very young age, this aspect can be worked on with games such as throwing a ball at each other, throwing cars in turns, jumping, tickling ... These activities allow the child to understand the alternation of turns and learn to wait and observe the other while waiting.
- Token game
Make up little scripts of conversations that the toys will perform and will be similar to those that a small child might have. In these scripts the child can be helped to learn to ask questions: 'What is your name? o Do you have siblings? '; repair misunderstandings: 'Sorry I didn't hear you well' or 'What did you say?' and, also, make comments: 'How beautiful is your dress'.
- Table games
Lotos, dominoes, association games, memory, game of the goose, ludo ... In these games it is necessary to respect turns and rules and, in addition, they provide stable verbal models: 'Now it's your turn', 'It's my turn' or 'Can I start?' These types of games favor the learning of the implicit rules that underlie a conversation.
- Theater scripts and dramatization
Writing theater scripts together to role-play with favorite toys or puppets will help you make made-up conversations, take turns for each character, get the characters talking, and have fun!
- Detective or journalist game
The child must find out information about a third person (it can be an aunt, teacher, grandmother ...). We can first help you by giving you the model questions: 'What is your favorite food? Do you have a dog? Where did you go on vacation? ' Then you can move on to a second level in which the child must do their own questionnaire.
- Messenger pigeon
The child must deliver a verbal message to another person who may be in another room and will do so by phone or video call. In this activity, you must provide pertinent information with the data that the interlocutor needs to understand the message and, if it is not understood, you must use strategies to repair it.
- Reading and dramatization of comics and comics
Using comics or comics that you have at home, act out dialogues and conversations.
You can read more articles similar to What children need to be able to have a fluent conversation, in the Language category - On-site speech therapy.